Martyrs of Marriage was screened in Perth on 20 September
It’s an Indian law that has been in place for three decades though decried by many as an instrument of oppression, injustice and a reason for suffering of lakhs of innocents. Brought on in 1983 to protect married women from dowry related violence within marital homes, section 498A of Indian Penal Code, also known as the anti-dowry law, has often been called as the most abused provision in Indian jurisprudence. In 2005, Supreme Court of India used the term “Legal Terrorism” to describe misuse of this law.
Martyrs of Marriage, a documentary film by Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj, highlights the misuse of the anti dowry law in India through first person accounts. The film interweaves personal stories of men and women who have faced trial or are undergoing trial under 498A on wrong allegations along with experiences of judges, advocates, court mediators, detectives and men’s rights activists on the abuse of this provision.
“It was in mid 2012 that I decided to make Martyrs of Marriage,” says Deepika, a software engineer turned journalist turned filmmaker. “There are moments that alter the course of your entire life. When I got to know how easy it is to accuse someone of crime of dowry harassment in India, how easy it is to misuse section 498A of Indian Penal Code and how easy it is for a woman to destroy an entire family by false allegations, I decided to speak up against it. When I read stories of many who gave up life because of this abuse, I decided to make Martyrs of Marriage,” adds Deepika.
Martyrs of Marriage is Deepika’s first documentary feature, and has already had public screenings since 2016. After several screenings across India, she has brought the film to Australia, where screenings have already taken place in Melbourne, Sydney, and Gold Coast.
‘When I got to know how easy it is to accuse someone of crime of dowry harassment in India, how easy it is to misuse section 498A of Indian Penal Code and how easy it is for a woman to destroy an entire family by false allegations, I decided to speak up against it. When I read stories of many who gave up life because of this abuse, I decided to make Martyrs of Marriage’
Deepika says that during the screening of Martyrs of Marriage in Australia, she met victims of misuse of the dowry law in India. “Australia already has laws to deal with domestic violence and abuse. I have read about psychiatrist and social activist Manjula O Connor’s campaign to get a law like 498A passed in Australia. I think people who care about equal justice should look at ground realities of this law before asking for its implementation,” says Deepika.
The film was also screened at International Conference on Men’s Issues in Gold Coast and the response, says Deepika, was overwhelming. “People don’t want to accept that men can have problems too. I feel really sad that while we are constantly striving to get rid of stereotypes associated with women, we have no issues in accepting and propagating stereotypes associated with men,” she says.
“When I started, I only wanted to tell a story. During the journey, I became an activist and a voice for those who weren’t heard because of their gender,” says Deepika, who has written and spoken extensively on gender biased laws in India and impact of their misuse on people through platforms like TEDx.
“The film is not an investigative piece but an extremely emotional story that raises pertinent questions on the way gender justice is being delivered in the country today. The film is a question on the efficacy of laws that have been made to protect one gender, the loopholes and abuse of the same with the help of the state. The film is a question on the psyche of those who think a man can never be a victim,” she adds.
“I am aware of the current social and political atmosphere around gender issues. I am aware of how politically incorrect this subject is. I am aware how the state is obligated by the constitution to protect women from gender based violence. But I am also aware that that obligation was never intended to come at the cost of lives of innocents. If it is happening, it needs to be condemned and spoken against. Martyrs of Marriage is a result of that NEED,” says Deepika.
Martyrs of Marriage will be screened at The Hellenic Club in Perth, on Wednesday, September 20, 7pm. More details click here.